It is now confirmed that a wolf involved in the recent attack in Schefferville (as reported in the last issue of The Nation) did indeed have rabies. The Public Health Department of the Cree territory of James Bay along with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Parks, have issued an urgent notice warning the population.

People are urged to avoid direct contact with any wild animal that is not behaving normally, that is having trouble walking or is showing uncharacteristically violent behaviour, or biting at anything and everything. Rabies affects the central nervous system and damages the brain. Once displaying symptoms of rabies, an animal usually dies within a week as swelling in the throat causes asphyxiation.

The disease is transmitted through the bite and saliva of an infected animal, even a lick of an infected animal can transmit rabies if the saliva comes into contact with your skin, eyes, nose, lips, cuts or scratches.

If you come in contact with the saliva of an infected animal, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medicine is available to prevent rabies from developing.

Any animal suspected of having rabies should not be consumed as food by humans or other animals, as a precaution. While any mammal can get rabies, it is most often found in foxes, skunks, raccoons and wolves; caribou are not at high risk. Dr. Robert Carlin, the medical consultant of the Infectious Disease Programs of the Regional Public Health Department of the Cree Territory of James Bay, says that there is no risk of contracting the disease through accidental consumption of a cooked animal.

In fact, the chance of being infected with rabies is slim. The last reported human case of rabies in Quebec dates from September, 2002.